GuideTreats avian pox and important information about the disease
Target GroupCorvids and
NOTE: In all my guides, I start from a situation where a rehabilitator takes his responsibility to take care of the animals in an ethically correct way. You should always try to minimize stress for the bird and since the birds, just like humans, are not the same, it can mean that you handle a problem in different ways by being creative! If I see different ways of doing the same thing, I try to write it down in my guides, but it is always up to the rehabilitator to take their own responsibility.
I do not have to write “I recommend putting the bird down” or “contact a veterinarian” or “according to law, you should …” because I start from the situation where you do the best for the bird and that you as a rehabilitator have learned to draw the line so that you do not end up in an unwanted or illegal situation. There may be an eternal battle between what you want and what is best for the bird.
There are also many factors where a similar situation can give different results. For example: access to a veterinarian, lack of time, lack of knowledge and previous experience can include cause large differences in the treatment and decision-making process and indirectly also the end result. Knowledge of basic things can make a huge difference in the stress level of the crow. For example. avoid anything that is black or checkered. They do not like it instinctively and it creates stress when they see that you are dealing with something that is black.
I put energy into my guides to make it easier for a rehabilitator to find information and to spread knowledge.
Do you see a way to improve my guides or do you see a mistake or do you want to add something, feel free to inform me!
If you are worried about doing something because it is new, ask other rehabilitators or a veterinarian for help.
The guides are continuously updated, so make sure to always download the latest version from

This guide describes what to do with crows that have avian pox

NOTE: It is important to realize that you should not kill a crow just because it has bird pox . When the bird is healthy again, it can be released without infecting other birds. This is not my opinion, but a research-based statement (see third reference at the bottom of the page). However, not all rehabilitators have the opportunity to receive a bird that have pox, because you have to have an isolation room that is also equipped with a double insect net.
If the bird has the diphtheria variant (I will write more about it below) and it looks bad, then killing may be justified. Especially when you see that the bird is suffering.
According to studies, avian pox is not dangerous to humans.

What is Avian Pox?

Avian Pox is a mild to severe, slowly progressing avian disease caused by an avipox virus. The three strains are chicken poxvirus, pigeon poxvirus and canarypox virus. The strains vary in their disease-causing ability (virulence) and have the ability to infect other bird species. However, many of the strains are group-specific. About sixty bird species from 20 families have been diagnosed with avian pox

Cause and spread

Crows are infected by biting insects (ticks, mosquitoes, mites, etc.) with the bird flu virus. The insect bites an infected bird where the wound is located and picks up some virus with the blood it ingests. The mosquito then seeks out another bird and injects some blood with the virus into the other bird. The wound therefore most often occurs in areas without feathers.
Birds that have survived the virus and where the wounds have disappeared are no longer contagious even though they still carry the virus. Should the bird become very ill from something else, the virus can again have the chance to express itself (and thus spread the disease). Because the virus is very common in nature, there is still no reason to kill a bird that has contracted it.

NOTE: However, it is not only through insects that the disease is spread. Close contact and sitting on the same stick may be enough. Distribution via particles in the air (aerosol) is also possible. Therefore, you often see a wave of extra cases after a period with a lot of dust in the air (dry days). Make sure the room where the bird will be is very clean. Also make sure to clean the room very thoroughly. I recommend Swiffer with water where you have added a bacteria and antiviral solution. This is lots of work!
Do not use a vacuum cleaner. The sound can really stress individuals and you can not use the vacuum cleaner elsewhere afterwards;)

Different shapes

There are basically two different shapes.
1) The most common, as it looks in the pictures on this page, where it looks like warts.
2) A less common form is a so-called “diphtheria form”, where you sometimes see necrotic (where tissue is dying / rotting) wounds on soft parts of the body. It is then also found in the upper respiratory tract.
3) An even more unusual form is a systemic infection (which affects the whole body, eg fever), but you will probably never see it (we hope)

Survival rate

Birds in the crow family have great chances of surviving the disease without care. When you can catch a crow that has smallpox, it means that it needs help (otherwise you would never have gotten it).

Visible sores that are almost always present in a place where there are no feathers (this is where the mosquito bites). for example the legs, claws, around the eyes and the base of the beak.

Medicine and dosage:

There is no known medicine for the avian pox in wild birds. In captive birds, a variety of treatments have been used in conjunction with supportive care to treat the injuries and prevent secondary infections, but there is really no real medicine for it yet. However, there have been more requests for a solution in the research world. We keep our fingers crossed!
The methods mentioned will not eliminate the virus and the disease will go away with or without treatment.

What to do:

• The infected bird should be kept either to itself or with other infected birds. The infected bird must be kept separate from birds that are not infected.
• The bird must be placed behind mosquito nets. Important! Otherwise, blood-sucking insects can transmit the infection to other birds nearby! It is important to keep the room clean before the stay, so that there are no parasites or biting insects in the room already! Routines!
• A balanced diet must be provided. A minced meat diet is not balanced.
• All cages must be cleaned daily to minimize contact between feces and infected body parts with crusts and open wounds so that the damage does not worsen. If the bird is alert enough, then maybe it steps around in its own feces and because it itches, it itches right on the wound WITH feces on the claws!
• Treatment of underlying internal and external parasites is recommended (then the body can concentrate primarily to get rid of the virus!)
• If a secondary infection is found, antibiotics (Baytril) can be given for a week (usually in the case of open wounds where bacteria can enter!).
• The most effective remedy against the virus is time. If it does not look too bad, expect it to take at least 2-3 weeks for improvement.
• An effective local antiviral solution that is recommended, however, is 1% solution of iodine. This can be applied daily to the wounds with cotton swabs / makeup pads. Iodine is effective against viruses, bacteria and fungi, making it suitable as a broad-spectrum treatment for all wounds. An alternative that I personally like is Manuka honey (medicinal antiviral and antibacterial honey), which nowadays is easy to get through the pharmacy.
Alternatively, there is F10 ointment (available on
If the wounds are wet, you can use blood stop powder for cats and dogs (they have it at the pharmacy)
• Antiviral agents intended for other viruses are ineffective.


Prevention can be done by minimizing the spread of disease in nature, which includes routine bird table hygiene, changing drinking water daily and providing fresh food. It is recommended to move around the bird food area in the garden to avoid a concentration of contaminants. Remove food debris that has fallen to the ground. It is a great source of infection!
If sick birds are detected in a garden area, it may be necessary to stop feeding for a few weeks, which will help to interrupt the transmission chain of the disease.


  1. Avian Pox, Charles van Riper and D. J. Forrester, Infectious Diseases of Wild Birds (pp.131-176), Chapter 6, Blackwell, 2007, Publishing Editors N. J. Thomas, D. B. Hunter, C. T. Atkinson.
  2. Practical Wildlife Care, Les Stocker MBE, Wiley-Blackwell, 2nd edition ( 26 July 2005), page 89.
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